Early next year, Windows 10 will become a recommended update on computers running Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update. If you don’t want Windows Update to automatically download and install Windows 10, you have to block the upgrade to Windows 10.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, didn’t mention an exact date, but “early next year” sounds pretty close. If the PC is configured to install updates automatically and the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates check box in the Windows Update settings is selected (which is the default setting), Windows 10 will install automatically.

Windows Update setting that controls recommended updates

Windows Update setting that controls recommended updates

According to Myerson, users will then still be able to interrupt the upgrade process, but I guess the 6GB setup files will be already be downloaded to the PC at this point.

The Get Windows 10 app ^

This differs from the current behavior of Windows Update. At the moment, the Get Windows 10 app, which was installed on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update computers with the KB3035583 update, only encourages users to upgrade to Windows 10.

Get Windows 10 app

Get Windows 10 app

However, numerous reports on the Internet indicate that, in some circumstances, the upgrade process starts without user consent. It appears Microsoft will be sued in Germany because of this behavior.

If you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10 or if you don’t want the Get Windows 10 app on your PCs, it makes sense to follow the instructions below.

Conditions that prevent the upgrade ^

Several conditions exist that will prevent Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update computers from being automatically upgraded to Windows 10:

  • The computer runs a Windows Enterprise or Embedded edition.
  • The computer runs Windows RT or Windows 8.1 RT.
  • The computer is an Active Directory domain member.
  • The computer is updated through a patch management solution that allows you to determine what updates are installed.
  • The computer is managed through Microsoft Mobile Device Management (MDM) (Configuration Manager, Microsoft Intune, other MDM solutions).
  • The computer is not configured to receive recommended updates automatically.

Thus, most corporate PCs are safe and won’t receive Windows 10 automatically. However, in many corporate networks, computers exist that are not domain-joined for some reason and are then usually updated through Windows Update. In those cases, you have to take necessary precautions to ascertain that Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 won’t be upgraded to Windows 10.

Blocking Windows 10 with Group Policy ^

Microsoft published a lengthy article about the topic that also explains how to deal with the Get Windows 10 app. The main point is the new Group Policy setting that came with KB3035583 that is supposed to block the upgrade process to Windows:

Turn off the upgrade to the latest version of Windows through Windows Update in Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update

Because we are talking about computers here that are not Active Directory domain members, you have to launch the local Group Policy editor (press WIN+R and then type gpedit.msc).

Turn off the upgrade to the latest version of Windows through Windows Update

“Turn off the upgrade to the latest version of Windows through Windows Update” policy

If you are running the Home edition, you will need to edit the registry. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > WindowsUpdate, add the DWORD value DisableOSUpgrade, and set it to 1.

However, reports exist that this policy does not always work reliably. Actually, during my tests, I noticed that the registry setting that actually controls the upgrade to Windows 10 was unaffected by this policy and Windows Update still offered me the Windows 10 upgrade.

Reserving the upgrade to Windows 10

Reserving upgrade to Windows 10

Blocking Windows 10 in the registry ^

Thus, I wouldn’t rely on this policy alone. The most interesting registry settings are located in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > WindowsUpdate > OSUpgrade. Five values exist: AllowOSUpgrade, KickoffDownload, KickoffSource, Refresh, and ReserverationsAllowed.

Most of those values speak for themselves. However, I am unsure what Refresh and KickoffSource mean. I guess the latter controls the start of the actual setup process, whereas Refresh lets Windows contact Windows Update to check for the availability of the Windows 10 upgrade. But these are really wild guesses. If you have better information, please let me know.

Anyway, to completely block upgrades to Windows 10, you should set all values to 0.

Disable upgrade to Windows 10 in the registry

Disable upgrade to Windows 10 in the registry

In addition, you should disable the Get Windows 10 app by setting the DWORD value DisableGWX in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > GWX to 1.

Disable Get Windows 10 app in registry

Disable Get Windows 10 app in the registry

After you change the registry settings, you should reboot the computer.

Monitoring upgrade settings with GWX Control Panel ^

Unfortunately, there is a catch. Users reported that the registry settings miraculously were set to the original settings after a while. I couldn’t verify these claims; however, to be on the safe side, you can install the GWX Control Panel (formerly GWX Stopper).

The free tool allows you to set the above-mentioned registry values and it also gives you an overview of the current settings. In addition, you can see whether Windows 10 has already been downloaded and you can clear the Windows Update cache.

GW Control Panel

GWX Control Panel

However, most interesting is the tool’s monitor mode that notifies you when Windows Update messes with the registry settings that control the Windows 10 upgrade process.

Conclusion ^

It seems Microsoft is not really happy about the slowing Windows 10 adoption. Frankly, Microsoft’s attempts to “convince” customers to upgrade to Windows 10 make a somewhat desperate impression on me.

I can understand that Redmond is frustrated with users who keep on using an old Windows version until the hardware finally breaks. Most users (and even many IT pros) simply underestimate the benefits of a new OS version. However, to more or less force Windows 10 on customer PCs feels wrong to me.

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